The Night Watches

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Gentle Reader,

I despise summertime. Always have and probably always will. The heat depresses me. I lose my appetite (for everything but ice cream, cucumbers and my mom’s iced tea). And when you live in a house without air conditioning, a house with windows that take in the full splendor of the afternoon sun…

You get the idea.

Add to this crankiness a nasty headache and a bout of insomnia and you’ve got a recipe for a full-fledged Marie meltdown. (Here’s an odd side note: insomnia does not cause Chronic Fatigue. The CFIDS actually causes the insomnia. Go figure). In the wee hours of this Monday morning, I listened to my husband snoring blissfully (the sound breaks through my earplugs quite easily) and stared at the wall, wondering why my life had to be so unfair.

Then I remembered something.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches. – Psalm 63:6 (NKJV)

All right.

I gathered up my pillow and my faithful doggy companion (who gets quite irritated with me during these sleepless nights, but feels obligated to stay by my side) and flopped down on the couch. And I started to pray. About everything. About nothing. I poured out all kinds of semi-coherent concerns and worried onto God’s lap. I asked for healing for people in my family. I sought out His wisdom for a difficult situation at work (and He gave me a brilliant answer, by the way). Subtly, the focus began to shift. I began to think about how awesome He is. How He’s always been so faithful to provide for me. How He’s preserved my life and that of my husband.

The Lord is just…amazing. There aren’t suitable words to describe Him.

Slowly, the flood of words died out and I lay there, still, content to just be in His presence. It was still too hot. I still wasn’t sleepy. My head still hurt. But all of that was okay, because I knew He was with me. I knew that He had listened to me and that He was going to work, had already been working, on all of the tough things. I knew, somehow, that He was sitting with me, His gentle hand stroking my hair.

Benny shifted against my legs, his soft fur sticking to my skin. He sighed contentedly. I think God was petting him.

So, my friend, when you can’t sleep, pray. Talk to God. Tell Him about everything. You’ll start to think about His goodness and mercy. You’ll find yourself in awe of His love. The knots in your soul will loosen and your heart will stop racing. It isn’t ideal to be awake during the night watches, but you just may find yourself sweetly blessed.

My journey to faith. (15)

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Thanks

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Gentle Reader,

I had intended to write a short post each day on this journey of pursuing peace and life, but I got sick. Again. The sort of sick where you cough so much that you actually begin to see muscle definition in your abs. And you wonder if it’s weird to be just a little bit happy about that.

All I have to say today is this:

If you enjoy overall good health, thank God for it. Take every opportunity He has given you.

and

If you do not enjoy overall good health, thank God that He is there with you, stroking your hair and collecting every one of your tears.

Whatever our circumstances, let’s find something to be thankful about. Let’s strive to drag our eyes from the bleakness and turn them to the Beauty.

My journey to faith. (15)

Ill Fitting

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Gentle Reader,

I went to sleep at 9:30 p.m. on Monday night and woke up at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

I went to sleep at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening and woke up at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

That comes out to 32.5 hours of sleep.

It’s difficult for me to wrap my mind around that, let alone try and explain such a happening to someone else. Chronic Fatigue is hard. I do everything I know to do to manage the symptoms, but there are times when nothing helps. Alarms make no impression. There’s no such thing as Circadian Rhythm. I don’t – can’t – even think about getting out of bed. There is nothing but sleep.

Non-restful, painful sleep.

In a culture that glorifies busyness…no, scratch that. In a church culture that honors the busy, overly-involved woman, how does one such as I find her place? I can’t be on the committees. I can’t be at all the events. Shoot, I can barely commit to something that’s going to happen in the next hour, let alone the next day or week. I simply don’t know how I’m going to feel.

There are some who say to “push through.” I wish I could. I wish I could tell my body that it needs to wake up. I wish I could bounce out of bed with vigor, ready to tackle a new day. I wish I didn’t have the constant desire to curl up and drift away.

32.5 hours of sleep is lonely. I miss time with my husband. I miss going to work. I miss out on friendships.

I miss out on doing something valuable. Of being part of something.

This post must sound incredibly whiny, but I promise that I’m not indulging in a public play for sympathy. I am searching for a purpose in the midst of all this. I’m looking for a place where I know I fit. Where I can contribute. When your body forces you from being a Martha and bypasses Mary completely, going instead for something that looks like a sloth, you feel useless. You want to do so much more than you can. You want to know that your life matters.

I suppose that there are no immediate answers to deep questions of direction, save that God says, quite simply, that I do matter. I haven’t won the Pulitzer. Don’t even have a book deal. I’m not a world-renowned teacher. I’ve never been on a missions trip. I don’t have much money or influence. But, somehow, I matter. Even though I don’t fit neatly into any role or relationship. Even though I can sleep for days.

Sometimes, you just have to agree with God and wait for the rest to pan out.

So much easier said than done.

My journey to faith. (15)

Hello There

Hi

Gentle Reader,

It’s amazing how quickly this break has gone by. I’d like to say it was because I was having immeasurable amounts of fun, but the reality is that I spent quite a lot of time coming and going. My companion in this travel? Doctors. Just shy of two weeks ago, I had my gallbladder removed. Despite several tests coming back negative for problems, pain persisted (and worsened), so the surgeon decided it was best to get it out of there. And it was. A 2 millimeter stone was blocking one of the ducts (considering that the ducts are 1 millimeter in diameter, this was an issue) and the other ducts were twisted and misshapen. This little organ attached to the liver was never going to get better on its own.

Recovery hasn’t been awful, though I don’t recommend popping in of an afternoon and having an organ removed, no matter how small. The worst part has been my inability to use the prescribed painkillers, as they made me sick. (I’ll spare you the gory details). My belly button, sadly, will never be the same again and I look like I was shot three times in the abdomen. I’ll no doubt have some pretty amazing scars by the time all is said and done. Still, I’d rather have scars than excruciating pain every time I eat.

That’s not all that happened during the Great Blogging Hiatus of 2012, however. In no particular or significant order, here are some things I learned:

1. Sometimes the words won’t come.

I fully expected to journal like mad during Lent, thinking that I would surely need some sort of creative outlet. I think I wrote twice, maybe three times in my little notebook. At first, this unnerved me. If you consider yourself a writer of any sort, you expect to have words. You love words. They are your gloriously varied colors with which to fill the blank canvas with the mocking, blinking cursor. If you don’t have words, what do you have? I’m certainly not a speaker. I’d much rather do all communicating by email, but nobody wants to cooperate with me in that.

This lack of words turned out to be a good thing. While I continue to doubt my suitability for any type of speech-making, I found myself battling through the tongue-tied anxiety that continually plagues me. I said things. Important things, silly things. Sometimes just groans. I yelled at God once. I apologized later.

Sometimes the words won’t come out onto the page, but they will come out via the tongue. That’s scary – and necessary.

2. You can’t force reconciliation. 

The Lord is in the business of reconciliation and restoration. I’m pretty sure He invented the ideas. As His child, there have been multiple times when I’ve been prompted by the Spirit to reach out to someone I just really didn’t want to reach out to. (That’s how I know when something is from God – when it’s definitely not my idea). I don’t like conflict and I like the messy business of repair even less. I have, however, had largely positive experiences in this arena.

Until now.

I had a falling out with someone awhile back, and we haven’t spoken in over two years. I have no delusions as to what reconciliation would look like. I don’t expect to be close friends or even friends at all. What I would like is to be able to associate with this person in a loving way, especially since we have mutual friends. I’d like to not feel hot with fear and run the other direction when I see this person in the store. So, I sent out a little note. Nothing major. Just a, “It’s been a long time and I would like to reconnect.”

No response.

You can’t make other people participate in the process of reconciliation. I think that’s partly what Paul meant when he wrote that we are to be at peace with all people (Romans 12:18). I’ve done all that I can; all that God wants me to do. I can be at peace with this person, even if it is not reciprocated.

3. Love grows.

I love Chris more today than I did all those weeks ago. He patiently took me to every doctor’s appointment his schedule would allow, and if he couldn’t be there, made sure I wasn’t alone. He held my hand and prayed with me right up to the moment the nurse wheeled me into the operating room. His was the first face I saw when I came into recovery. He didn’t once make fun of me for sleeping with the two stuffed animals I carried over from childhood. He set his alarm and got up every four hours to feed me saltines and painkillers. He held my hair back when I couldn’t keep those saltines and painkillers down.

My man is amazing. I see Jesus in him every time he assures me that we’ll be taken care of, no matter what the check register says. I see him working to put aside his own fears, knowing that I need encouragement. I literally cannot imagine my life with anyone else, and don’t even want to try.

4. Casseroles and cards come from the heart.

I don’t even begin to know how to thank my church family for bringing us dinner, for the cards that arrived in the mail and the prayers I know were sent to the Throne Room on my behalf. We’re not a perfect family. In fact, we’re pretty dysfunctional. That’s what makes the love we have for each other and the grace that is given all the more amazing.

5. There is something about family.

A few days after my surgery, we went to my parent’s house as we usually do for Sunday dinner. I was still pretty out of it and in a lot of pain. It felt so good to lay on the couch and know that Mom, Dad and my brother, Ben, were all nearby. This family isn’t perfect, either, but I feel safe there. I can show up without makeup, hobble down the stairs and cry ’cause it hurts – and that’s okay. Nobody minds.

6. A public platform is a powerful thing.

It is fearsome to be a blogger. I never know who might be reading these thoughts of mine. That can be a heady thing – tracking site statistics, engaging in comment conversation, looking for just the right “hook.” While none of these things are wrong in themselves, I became acutely aware of how easy it would be to use this site in a God-dishonoring way. I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I have very few. I can’t fix anyone’s life. If I use this little corner of the Internet to promote myself… Well, I hope that’s the day my laptop explodes.

I’m not kidding. Everyone’s got an opinion, a thought, an idea. I want to point you to the One whose opinions, thoughts and ideas really matter. Without Him, I am nothing.

7a. Memorizing Scripture actually works.

I’d like to say I’m bad at memorization, but the truth is that I just don’t. It’s a matter of laziness. After going through such a difficult Autumn, I made memorizing Scripture one of my goals for 2012. Those words have become a lifeline.

I have long struggled with having assurance when it comes to salvation. This stems from my perfectionism and anxiety, to be sure. Having seen far too many Dateline specials about surgery screw-ups, I was deeply afraid of dying on the table – and ending up in Hell. As panic began to set in, I felt the Lord speak to my spirit. Would I choose to trust the words I had put into my heart? Would I rest in the words that I have poured over, picked apart and studied? Would I believe that the blood of Christ really is enough?

It would be nice if I could tell you that my response was easy, but I wrestled. Would He really be with me in that operating room? Would He really accept me into His arms if the end of my time had come?

7b. It’s my choice.

There are very few things in life that I can control, but one of those things is my reaction. I can say “yes.” I can say “no.” I can freak out or access the calmness of God. I can do things my own way or seek His wisdom. It’s my choice.

Lying on that hospital bed, listening to my husband pray, it dawned on me that I had to choose. Faith really isn’t just a one-time decision. It’s a moment-by-frightening-moment deal. So, with a deep breath, I told God, “Okay. I trust You. I trust that You have saved me and that You will be with me. I won’t worry. I am persuaded. You are strong.”

I had to choose. It’s a mind-stretching and heart-wrenching thing sometimes. I came through the surgery and I believe that I would have been welcomed into Heaven had I not, but the journey’s not over. There are mounting medical bills and it’s not entirely clear how we will make the house payment this month. Again I will have to choose whether to give in to the fear or allow God’s strength to enable me to stand and do battle.

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